5 Things You Need to Quit in Your 20s

Every young person knows they need to grow in their twenties. The question, though, is how? Most young people assume you grow by adding new skills and behavior to your life. While that’s one way to grow, don’t forget you also need to grow through subtraction, by getting rid of negative attitudes and behaviors.

It’s easy to underestimate how much your negative behaviors sabotage your strengths, tainting your positive attitudes and abilities. So if you want to see sustained growth, you need to quit these five behaviors that hold so many young people back. I write as someone who has and currently struggles with all of five of these things. But as you become more aware of them, you’re life will be healthier. So in your twenties, you need to quit:

1. ...complaining:

It’s easy to go through your twenties complaining about the world around you. Since you’re at the beginning of your career, you’re not in control of many situations, which causes many young people to respond by complaining, grumbling about their dissatisfaction or annoyance with the way things are.

Why you need to quit this: Even though complaining feels good in the moment, it never does anything to improve the situation. Complaining makes you feel like you’re actually doing something, but it actually causes passivity, since the problem, after all, is their fault, not yours. Complainers take on a victim mentality, and forfeit all responsibility to ever find a way to improve a situation. Complaining poisons workplaces and friendships with a spirit of negativity and hopelessness, and makes you a drag to be around.

What to do instead: If you want to quit complaining you need to do two things. First, ask yourself, “How am I contributing to the situation I’m complaining about?” You always have a role to play in the problem, even if it’s the fact that you’re not doing anything. Secondly, since almost all complaining happens to a third party, you need to either drop the complaint or initiate a non-accusative discussion with the person you have a problem with. Quitting complaining doesn’t mean you ignore problems or sweep them under the rug, but rather forces you either to forgive the problem, or take action to solve the root cause. No more passive grumbling to other people.

2. ...criticizing:

While criticizing is similar to complaining, unlike complaining, it comes from a place of moral superiority. The critic believes they know best, and so they look down on others with pride as they point out other people’s flaws and mistakes.

Why you need to quit this: Young people often become critical because they’re overly idealistic about the possibility of perfection. While it’s good to have high standards, life is complicated, and no matter how hard you try, there will always be problems and things that could be improved. Critics often use their intellectual ideals to tear down the people who are actually out there doing the hard work, albeit imperfectly. Critics, because of their pride, imply the underlying message, “If I were doing this, it would be better.” It’s easy to point out flaws and problems, but hard to do things well. While criticism is offered under the guise of being helpful, it always damages relationships and freezes progress.

What to do instead: Before criticizing someone, why don’t you step out of your bystander role and actually try to do what you’re critiquing better than that person. If you do, you’ll recognize you underestimated how difficult and complex the job or task is. And if you really want to see improvement, stop criticizing and start encouraging. While criticism feeds your prideful ego, encouragement gives people the life they need and establishes a relationship where you can actually influence them in a helpful way.

3. ...comparing:

As you go through your twenties, every young person looks for yard-markers to judge yourself against. While it’s okay to know where other young people are at, comparison is all about getting your identity from whether you’re ahead or behind your peers.

Why you need to quit this: Young people use comparison to search for a relative identity, finding their value in being ahead of others. The problem with comparison is that when you compare favorably, you’ll look down on others, and when you compare unfavorably, you’ll look down on yourself. And since there will always be young people ahead and behind in life, you’ll fluctuate between subtle arrogance and hidden despair, always struggling with insecurity.

What to do instead: Instead of finding your identities according to how you compare to others, you need to find your identity in Christ and what He has done. This allows to be trust God and find joy in who He has made you to be. God’s created everyone differently, giving each young person a different starting point and a different life to live. To spend your twenties comparing yourself to others devalues how God creates a diversity of gifts and callings to accomplish His plan for the world.

4. …avoiding:

Avoiding is when you know what you should do, but you put it off because it’s hard or uncomfortable. Many young people avoid difficult conversations, decisions, endings, or new beginnings, all because the status quo offers short-term security. When you avoid, you prioritize short-term comfort over long-term health.

Why you need to quit this: It’s easy in your twenties to ignore the negative and focus on the fun, pushing any problems out of mind. Ignoring a problem, though, never makes it go away, and instead allows it to fester until its even bigger, requiring more time and money to solve, while creating more pain along the way. If you don’t learn how to take on uncomfortable things, you forfeit your ability to solve an issue when its small and on your terms, and instead will have to deal with it as it blows up at the worst possible time.

What to do instead: Get in the habit of regularly asking yourself, what is one thing I’m avoiding right now? Maybe it’s responding to a tough email, engaging in a hard conversation, or even just looking at your credit card statement. Gulp. Remind yourself how good it will feel to have this behind you, and then either complete the task at least take the first step towards completion.  

5. …waiting to be asked:

Most young people, despite their desire to have an impact, won’t do something unless someone asks them. Everyone waits around for an older adult to ask them, thinking they need someone’s permission to get started.

Why you need to quit this: If you wait around for someone to ask you, it will probably never happen. Most middle-aged people are so busy with their own issues, they don’t have time to read your mind and hand-pick you for a certain opportunity. So many young people never get started because they passively wait for an adult to pick them, never doing the thing they care about. Meanwhile, middle-aged adults wait for young people to show initiative before they give them responsibility. This often happens for two reasons: either you lack the confidence in your gifts and God’s leading, or, you don’t want to do the hard beginning work, and would rather have the glamor of being put in charge.

What to do instead: Don’t wait for someone to choose you, choose yourself instead. If God has put something on your heart, find a way to get started. Volunteer with an organization, ask someone how they got involved, or build a cheap website and go for it. Find a small way to begin and trust that if you are faithful in the little things, over time you’ll grow in your responsibilities. Yeah, it might be a little scary, but the best things in life always are.

what now?

Your life and your opportunities will expand as you quit these behaviors and begin to take responsibility and initiative for your life. The great thing about these five behavior is that it doesn’t take any money or talent to quit them. So get out there and start quitting!

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